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So far, Dungeness Water Bank usage just a drop in the bucket

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

Posted 6/27/2013

SEQUIM –– Water users have requested just 0.0904 acre-foot of water from the 604.9 acre-feet available in the Dungeness Water Exchange, which was formed
Jan. 2 as part of the state’s Dungeness water rule.

Amanda Cronin of the Washington Water Trust, the nonprofit that manages the water bank, updated the exchange’s advisory council last week on transactions from the bank thus far.

“There’s going to be a lot of water in the bank for mitigation,” Cronin said. 

And there soon will be more water deposited in the bank.

Cronin and Gary Smith of the Sequim-Dungeness Water Users Association said the two sides likely will finalize next month a contract that would transfer 175 acre-feet of water from the valley’s irrigators to the bank.

The state Department of Ecology instituted the Dungeness water rule at the start of the year, saying it was needed to maintain adequate flows in the river basin for human use as well as for aquatic wildlife.

The water bank was allotted water by the state to issue to users in the basin.

Residential users can tap that water by buying mitigation certificates when they ask the county’s permission for buildings that would require more water use.

Money will be used to fund projects that will add to the river’s flow level and preserve water for use during the dry summer months.

While residential demand is low, municipal providers of water want all they can get.

“We want as much water as possible,” Sequim Public Works Director Paul Haines said.

Although the city has enough water to supply its residents for the next 20 years, Haines and Tom Martin, water superintendent for the Clallam Public Utilities District, asked Cronin if they could get more water through the water bank to sell to their customers.

“Can we take water from the bank to mitigate?” Martin asked.

Martin said the PUD is looking to drill a new well on Old Olympic Road that will draw up to three acre-feet of water to replace one closer to the Dungeness Bay that is running below capacity because saltwater has intruded into it in the past.

“What do we have to do to mitigate that?” he asked.

Because the new well will have the capacity to draw more water, Cronin said, the PUD likely will have to put together some sort of mitigation project.

That may be difficult, she said, because options for recharging the basin on the west end of the water rule area are few because of its geology and saturation.

The rule covers the eastern half of Water Resource Inventory Area 18, from Bagley Creek to Sequim Bay.

She also explained that large water users, like municipal water systems and large businesses, will have to work out special mitigations for their use with Ecology, as the certificates are designed only for residential users.


Comments

So far, the new water users that have obtained mitigation from the Water Bank, to use their own well water, have been individual or Group B well users. And, of course, their impact is small. The impact of ALL the new individual well water users is very small! And, the Basin was no longer over-appropriated, as the Dungeness Water Users had given at least several CFS back to the River–and, other large water rights had been relinquished. BUT, we are going to spend millions on aquifer recharge projects “to mitigate” for well water usage. And, we are going to penalize those with acreage outside of the irrigation district boundaries by not allowing any new use of outside watering. No new orchards, gardens, lawns, cows, etc….

I really have read a lot of the studies, and participated on many water committees. The Valley (not the foothills) has at least 3 aquifers. Very few wells are into the 2nd or 3rd aquifer. And, that 600+ deep govt. well out on the Dungeness Spit still has fresh water in it. There is quite a lot of fresh water coming down from the Olympics, that cannot be absorbed into the hard basalt and igneous rock, in the foothills. So, it moves North, with pressure. While I believe them to be honest and well-intentioned, I don’t think the Washington Water Trust is accountable to anyone, specifically. They are a private non-profit. – Marguerite Glover, Sequim

 

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